They say write what you know—and Ephron did just that in her novel turned movie. The 1986 flick, starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, was inspired by the dissolution of Ephron’s own marriage and scored by Carly Simon. It turns out airing the personal material on the big screen wasn’t only a fearless move but a canny one: the movie opened at No. 2 at the box office, right behind Aliens.
‘When Harry Met Sally…’
Never before has a deli sandwich been so scandalous. Ephron penned the 1989 hit that followed eventual married couple Harry and Sally’s dalliances through the years. The film, starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, earned Ephron an Oscar nomination for her hilarious consideration of whether men and women can be friends—after sleeping with each other, of course. The answer might be inconclusive, but the line “I’ll have what she’s having” will forever live on in infamy. Watch Sally’s hilarious fake orgasm.
‘Sleepless in Seattle’
Ephron directed and co-wrote this romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks as strangers who cross the country to meet each other—with a heartwarming rendezvous that earned her a third Oscar nomination. Annie, played by Ryan, becomes smitten with Sam, played by Hanks, after he calls into a radio show in the wake of his wife’s death. And, if that’s not enough to convince rom-com naysayers everywhere, the 1993 flick drew on An Affair to Remember, with a Cary Grant–worthy meeting atop the Empire State Building.
‘You’ve Got Mail’
Call it the first romantic comedy fit for the digital age. Ephron again directed Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks as rival bookstore owners who fall in love virtually, thanks to a courtship over AOL. In the 1998 flick, Kathleen Kelly, Ryan’s character, meets Joe Fox, Hanks’s character, via email, and their courtship unfolds as his store puts hers out of business. “Shopgirl” and “NY152” could teach online dating a lesson or two.
‘Julie & Julia’
Three hundred sixty-five days, 524 recipes, and the true stories of blogger Julie Powell and chef Julia Child make up Ephron’s 2009 film, which grossed nearly $130 million in theaters. The movie serves up the stories of blogger Powell, played by Amy Adams, and the famed chef, played by Meryl Streep, as Powell attempts to cook all the recipes in Child’s 1961 cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The real-life chef didn’t hit if off with Powell, but Ephron’s movie was piping hot, earning Streep a Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Child.